Manchester United may be set to hand several new signings their debuts in Saturday’s Premier League opener against Tottenham at Old Trafford, but the transfer saga that has dominated their summer continues to provide an unwelcome distraction. Contrary to expectations at the climax of last season, David de Gea remains at the club. But the uncertainty over his long-mooted move to Real Madrid means manager Louis van Gaal will not select him against Spurs.
"He shall not play," Van Gaal told reporters, regarding De Gea and the distraction surrounding the Spanihs goalkeeper. "A human being is more than just a player and he cannot manage that."
"I cannot lead this process, I can only watch and observe and that is what I’m doing. I’m not participating in that process."
The absence of the club’s player of the year for the past two seasons will not be easily overcome in the long term, or indeed in the short term on Saturday. The man who was De Gea’s deputy, Victor Valdes, has been exiled from the first team and transfer listed after a falling out with the manager, while Anders Lindegaard is also set to depart. It means Van Gaal’s choice to take the gloves will be between Sam Johnstone, who spent last season on loan with two League One clubs and has yet to make a competitive appearance for United, and Sergio Romero, who arrived on a free transfer last month but has not played since the Copa America.
Romero’s Argentina teammate Marcos Rojo will definitely miss out having returned late to preseason. Van Gaal also confirmed that summer signing Bastian Schweinsteiger is not fit to start, and fellow midfielder Marouane Fellaini is suspended following his sending off in the final match of last season. There are, though, expected to be debuts handed to Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay.
Tottenham, who finished a place below Manchester United in fifth last season, have their own selection doubts heading into the big Premier League kickoff. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has suggested that goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and midfielder Ryan Mason are likely to have to settle for a place on the bench having only returned from injury in Tottenham’s final preseason outing against Milan on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Andros Townsend and Roberto Soldado look unlikely to feature after injuries picked up in preseason.
Tottenham’s only major addition this summer has been Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld, who spent last season on loan at Southampton from Atletico Madrid. Otherwise the club’s transfer business has been centered on removing some expensive misfits and adding young players with potential. And Pochettino, entering his second season in charge, has admitted that he would like to see further additions made before the close of the transfer window.
“I think you know we need to bring some players,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “We work very hard for that. But always if we bring some player, the player who can help our squad is welcome.
“I think our philosophy is to mix -- to have the balance between the young and the experienced player. I think [it's] our philosophy, our idea and I think it is good for the club and for the future.”
Kickoff time: 7:45 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra